by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Aaron Riley is one of the true veterans of mixed martial arts.
He’s faced off against just about every style of opponent, in just about every organization around over his 10-year, 30-plus fight career.
So it should come as no surprise that this coming Thursday, Sept. 20 in Hollywood, Fla., Aaron adds another stamp to his MMA passport as he enters the International Fight League for the first time against the Portland Wolfpack’s Ryan Schultz in a lightweight superfight.
“That’s really cool,” stated Riley about his inclusion in yet another promotion. “I’m glad that they’re [the IFL] putting me in. I always try to go out and put on my best performance, so it’s good to be rewarded when promoters recognize that and put you on the show.”
Having fought on some of the most diversified stages in the sport, Aaron has learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to going into battle. So it is with this knowledge that in preparation for this fight, he took no chances, working with a fellow American Top Team member and UFC veteran in preparation for the fight.
“I’ve been training a lot with Din Thomas,” stated Riley. “He’s going to be fighting the night before against Kenny Florian in the UFC, so he and I have both been in the same training camp. Everything’s been going really, really well.”
Aaron has never been one to take any opponent lightly, and that trend continues as he takes on the always-tough Ryan Schultz, a fighter Riley is well acquainted with.
“I’ve been familiar with Ryan for a long time,” admitted Aaron. “When he first started fighting, up in the Pacific Northwest, I lived in that area, [and] there was a big buzz about Ryan Schultz back in the day. I’ve seen him fight in Florida a couple of times as well.”
Riley continued, “I know he’s a super-tough guy, a good wrestler, and not afraid to throw his hands. He’s a really tough competitor, so I’m expecting it to be a war – like they all are – that’s what I’m expecting from Ryan Schultz.”
When asked what his strategy for handling Schultz’s skill set, the normally candid Aaron replied with a coy chuckle, “I’m going to use whatever it takes to come out there with a W, how’s that?”
Should things go his way this coming Thursday, Riley is open to any opportunities that may come his way the rest of the year, even though he’s staunchly focused on the task at hand.
“I’m really not looking past this fight,” explained Aaron. “I really don’t have anything planned, it just kind of depends on how this works, but there are a couple things that are in the works.”
“I’m looking at maybe … moving up to the state of Maryland, and working up there and teaching MMA at a couple of gyms up in that area. I don’t want to step out of competition, but I’m looking to kind of go into another aspect of my MMA career, and that’s starting to teach a little more,” added Riley.
As Aaron explains, his decision to possibly relocate from Florida is a combination of wanting a new challenge and a desire to begin to provide a foundation for his post-fighting career.
“It’s a little of both [reasons]” stated Riley. “I know I’m not going to be able to fight forever, and I have to start to lay the groundwork for what I’m going to be doing later in life.”
Aaron continued, “I’ve done martial arts for the last 15 years, and I’ve been fighting for the last 10 years, so I think it’s safe to say that it’s definitely my bread and butter. It makes sense for me to go there after my career in fighting.”
Even though the future is open for Riley, he’s firmly rooted in the here and now. And, as he enters yet another MMA promotion to face another tough opponent, he urges fans in his hometown area to come and check out the show.
“I’d just like to thank everybody at ATT; Dan Lambert and all the coaches there, [Ricardo] Liborio, Marcelo and Conan [Silveira],” said Aaron. “Special thanks to Howard Davis for setting up a training camp for Din Thomas and myself; and all my teammates from ATT for helping to get us ready.”
Riley concluded, “Everybody definitely needs to come out and support the IFL, because it’s the Team Championships, it’s their Super Bowl, baby! If you’ve never seen the IFL, you need to come out and give it a look, and definitely the guys in the superfights are looking to put on a show as well.”